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Celebrating Chinese New Year with Chinese Steamed Bread

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To truly experience the wondrous joy of Chinese New Year (this year being the Year of the Horse), one must surround themselves with color, joy, laughter and great food. You don't have to be Chinese to celebrate this festive time of the year and many cities across American will be holding parades to honor the Year of the Horse during the 15-day celebration. Personally, I can't think of a better way of celebrating than with some classic dishes from China (real Chinese food, not Americanized Chinese food).

Have you ever gone into a Chinese restaurant and ordered steamed pork buns? Have you ever gone into a dim sum eatery and munched on those little Chinese dumplings filled with the natural sweetness of lychee? In both of these cases the bread surrounding these delicacies was a steamed bread... as a matter-of-fact, it was this steamed bread.

In a recent survey, it seems the number one type of ethnic restuarant for diners is Chinese. This is really no surprise as it seems everyone loves Chinese food, or at least what they consider Chinese food. Fact of the matter is, most Chinese food presented in America is nowhere near what Chinese food actually is.

Unless you have studied the art of Chinese cuisine, of which there are a few regional genres, you might not be aware of Chinese breads. This particular bread is enticing, to say the very least. It is not like most breads simply because it is steamed. The texture is doughy-like. The taste is slightly sweet. It is indeed addictive.

By-the-way, you can fill these before steaming them with BBQ pork to make your own steamed pork buns and make them smaller and fill them with lychee for dim sum lychee dumplings.

Ingredients needed to make Chinese Steamed Bread (makes 6 pieces):

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 ½ Tbs. sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups water
  • 2 tsp. yeast
  • 1 Tbs. lard (or vegetable shortening)

Steps:

  1. In a medium bowl whisk the flour to remove any lumps.
  2. In a small bowl whisk together the sugar, water and yeast. Set the bowl aside 5 minutes for the yeast to proof (foam).
  3. Into the flour add the lard and cut it into the dough with a pastry blender or your fingertips until it is crumbly. Stir in the proofed yeast to form a dough.
  4. Remove the dough to a floured surface and knead until smooth. Place the dough back into the bowl, cover and let rise 2 hours.
  5. Bring three cups of water to a boil in a steamer.
  6. Remove the dough from the bowl and place of a floured surface. Separate the dough into 6 pieces and form each into a mini loaf.
  7. Place a piece of parchment paper in the bottom of the steamer basket.
  8. Place the mini loaves into the steamer and steam 25 minutes.
  9. Remove from the steamer and serves.

The internationally bestselling cookbook from Chef Larry Edwards, "Edwardian Cooking: 80 Recipes Inspired by Downton Abbey's Elegant Meals," is now in it's third printing and available worldwide in both hard cover and e-book versions. The paperback version will be released March 4, 2014.

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